After 16 years at NOAA, marine mammal expert will switch careers ― and time zones

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 4:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - David Schofield is a familiar face. For 16 years he’s been NOAA’s point person at emergency incidents involving marine mammals.

He says while handling whale carcasses takes a lot of work, Hawaiian monk seals have been his biggest challenge.

“It just seems like monk seals get themselves into places, up rivers, in culverts, in places that you wouldn’t expect them to go,” he said.

Most of Schofield’s work centered on the Hawaiian monk seal and humpback whales. He’s responded to sightings, strandings and entanglements.

He said inter-agency involvement has been a big help, and the biggest change he’s seen during his tenure.

“Our overall capacity to care for animals, to respond to deceased animals, to respond to entangled animals has improved greatly over the years with a lot of team effort,” he said.

Schofield has been in the marine mammal field for 33 years as a trainer, emergency response coordinator, and animal management expert.

“I think working with the Hawaiian cultural community has taught me a greater depth of understanding, of caring, of appreciation for the animals that I work with,” he said.

Schofield believes visitor education is the best way to counter bad actors who show up on social media harassing Hawaii’s marine mammals.

“There is just this drive for people to get selfies or film themselves and say, ‘Hey, look what I did.’ It often is at the peril of the animals and the natural environment,” he said.

Schofield, 57, retires from NOAA later this month. He’s planning to move to Delaware to start a Christian outrigger canoe ministry that’s an extension of New Hope Church.

“The idea is to take that idea of a canoe ministry, bringing people to the gospel through the canoe, and foster that on the East coast,” he said.

Hawaii is different from other regions he’s worked in, and he’ll miss it.

“I still have a lot of connections here, and yes I’ll miss the warm weather,” he said.

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